Mississippi welcomes Jena 6 supporters back to 1957
At approximately 1130 PM, September 19, 2007, my
friends (Charles Reeves
and Anthony Payne) and I found ourselves on the side
of the road outside
the town of Tylertown, Mississippi.
After riding for a short while behind the squad car
that emerged from
the wooded roadside, he pulled behind us and
promptly turned on his
lights and siren. There was no question that we were
as we were driving on cruise control, five miles
under the speed limit.
Ironically, we had chosen to do this to avoid being
pulled over on the
notorious stretch of Mississippi road known as
"Bloody 98". His first
question as he approached the car: Do you all have
licenses? His second
question: So... Where are ya'll headed? After I
responded that we were
headed to Vidalia (a town thirty miles from Jena,
Louisiana where we had
hotel reservations), he continued to ask several
Vidalia. Not one related to my registration, driving
or a potential
traffic violation. But instead:
Officer 1: "So, what are you going to do in
MTF: "I'm going to Comfort Suites in Vidalia."
Officer 1: "Is that it, just going to a hotel?",
"There's nothing to
do in Vidalia, is that all you're going there for?",
"You have any
friends or family there?"
MTF: (cutting him off) "I'm going to a hotel in
Officer 1: "So, really, Vidalia, you going anywhere
else?", "Can you
step outside to the back of the car please"
The conversation continued at the back of the car.
Fog lights blared in
my face as I became increasingly angry and
antagonistic. My friends are
still in the car with fog lights beaming into the
back of the car.
After several refused attempts to get me to answer
something other than
"I'm going to a hotel in Vidalia", he moved to my
Officer 1: "So, are you aware that my computer
shows that your
tag is expired?"
MTF: "No it is not. I have the registration, decals
you're welcome to run it. Do you mind telling me
what the problem is?"
Officer 1: "Well, maybe my computer's wrong. But you
swerving back there did you know that?"
MTF: "I don't believe that I was, but I can't say
about that. Do you want to tell me what the problem
Officer 1: "Ok. Give me a minute. I'm just
He returned to his car and came back.
Officer 1: "Do you have any drugs or illegal
items in the car?"
MTF: "No, I don't. I don't keep illegal items in my
I'm an attorney. I don't keep any illegal items on
person or in my car. I have a bar card
if you would like to see that as well"
Officer 1: "Really? What law school did you go to?
MTF: "Howard University School of Law"
Officer 1: "Do you mind if I search your car?"
MTF: "As a matter of fact I do. No you cannot."
At this time another squad car pulls up. Another two
officers and a
young African-American male in street clothes hops
out. He greets me:
"What's up" My response: SILENCE (In my mind, I'm
saying F$%^ you and
what's up!)". The irony of that... The unknown
"brother", forever known
as Travares, smooths me over with "What's up." as
his "friends" proceed
to launch a full scale "investigation". There are
now three officers,
and two people in plain clothes outside of two
police cars. Apparently,
all here only to investigate the reason we were
traveling to Vidalia.
Not a traffic violation, but why we were going to
I turn to the new officer...
MTF: "Look, your officer says my tag showed as
expired (although it
was pitch black and my year decal is covered with an
Omega Psi Phi frame
plate) and I was swerving. I have shown him my
tag registration and insurance card. I am ready to
take any test that
you have to give. But first, will you all please
tell me what the
problem is, because I do not understand."
Officer 2: "Well, where are you guys headed?"
MTF: "Vidalia. Do you have a problem with me going
Officer 2: "Hold on. I'm just asking you some
questions. Let me talk to
your friend. Could you please step to the back of
the squad car please?"
He approaches my friend in the front passenger seat
and asks him out of
the car. He takes him to the other side of the
second squad car and
performs a search of his person. This officer went
as far as to dig
into his pockets and around the inside of his
waistband. He questions
Officer 2: "So you guys are going to Jena huh?"
AP: "I'm going to Vidalia."
Officer 2: "So, you're just going to Vidalia, when
are you leaving?"
Officer 2: "So you're just going to stay there one
night and then
AP: "Go home."
Officer 2: "You do know what's going on in Jena
AP: "Yes. I do."
Officer 2: "So you're going to Vidalia, huh"
He then left to go and question the second passenger
in the back seat.
Officer 2: "Put your hands on the headrest and
don't move them! Where
are you headed?"
Officer 2: "Where are you coming from?"
CR: "Mobile, Alabama"
Officer 2: "How old are you?"
Officer two leaves the car.
Officer one returns to me as I'm standing at the
back of the squad car.
MTF: "Do you want to tell me what the problem is
Officer 1: "I'm going to ask you again, so you don't
want me to
search your car."
Officer 1: "I'm just curious to know why you won't
let me search
MTF: "Because you have neither reasonable suspicion
probable cause to conduct a search on my car. No,
Officer 1: "You have a nice day."
Anthony returned to the car shortly after. We left,
and were officially
welcomed to the year 1957... For thirty minutes on
the side of that
rode, we were part of something bigger than a random
stop. We were part
of the reason that buildings burned in this country.
We were a part of
a bigger struggle. We arrived in Jena the next day,
as planned. No
thanks to the law officers of Tylertown,
Mississippi. Imagine how many
others faced similar circumstances while traveling
on the 20th of
September. Then consider how many go through similar
An attorney, a finance collections manager and a TV
were on the side of a dark Mississippi road in the
dead of night
surrounded by five suspicious Mississippi law
enforcement officers and
the "brother" who will forever be known as "Travares
There were weapons shown, shaky hands, and the
ominous smell of chewing
tobacco. There were fog lights glaring. Our only
suspected of driving to participate in a
demonstration that has become
one of the purest forms of American "free speech".
Apparently, it's not
free for all. We had nearly a hundred years of
experience and life
experience to guide them through what could have
been another tragic
news story. If one of our youth was in that same
predicament, would the
outcome have been the same? You be the judge? Is
there still work to
be done? Maybe it was all just a coincidence.
Take note. Take heed. When appropriate... Take
action. It is real.
God bless everyone who is reading this. This letter
was not written in
hate or anger, but in concern. I can protect myself,
what about those
Peace. Cause we really need it